Napoli Shkolnik Noted For Top Product Liability Case

Law360 Publishes Year-End Report: Recognizes Napoli Shkolnik PLLC Litigation As One of the Top Product Liability Cases of 2016
Law360 Reviews the most significant product liability ruling of the past year.

Law360 has assembled a list of the top Product Liability Cases of 2016 in their Year-End Report and has named Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court to it.

In this case, the plaintiffs are represented by Napoli Shkolnik PLLC partners Hunter J. Shkolnik, Shayna E. Sacks and Jennifer R. Liakos. The Napoli Shkolnik team argued that given the company’s contacts in California, including its marketing and distribution and research and development facilities, the state courts have specific personal jurisdiction over non-resident’s claims.

The California Supreme Court agreed and gave the green-light for almost 600 non-Californians, who filed their suit in the state, to proceed with their litigation against Bristol-Myers Squibb. It was the first time the state high court weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, which said general jurisdiction exists where a company is “at home.”

Bristol­Myers said in its petition that the California Supreme Court’s split ruling allowing nearly 600 nonresidents to sue the drug company in the state’s friendly venue was based on a loose blend of contacts the drug company has in the state rather than on anything connected to the litigation at hand.

Those claims would be exactly the same if the pharmaceutical giant had “no contact whatsoever” with the state, Bristol­Myers said. The company’s unrelated operations in California, which aren’t tied to its blood­thinner drug, can’t be enough to allow people who don’t even live in California to sue the company there, Bristol­Myers argued.

“If the Supreme Court takes that case, that’s going to be one of the most significant decisions of the year for product liability practitioners,” Peter Goss of Blackwell Burke PA said. “It’s a real opportunity for the court to address litigation tourism in a meaningful way if they take it. Everyone is going to be watching that one.”

In its own published ruling, the California state high court said that given the company’s extensive contacts with California — such as its marketing and distribution of the drug, as well as research and development facilities located there — the state courts have specific personal jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is being sued by California residents and non-residents for its popular blood thinning drug Plavix.

“It is always rewarding to successfully represent our clients and with this ruling, we are proud to be part of a case that will have a positive impact on future pharmaceutical litigations,” says Hunter.

The case is Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v S.C., California Supreme Court, No. S221038.